Personalized Medicine

Our investigators are conducting research to translate laboratory sciences into the most precise treatment options for patients with solid tumor cancers. One strategy involves developing tools such as HIDRA, which detects patterns in cancer development, progression, and treatment response. This is a database containing thousands of medical records and tissue inventories maintained by  Cancer Consortium partners, Fred Hutch, UW Medicine, Seattle Children's and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Researchers and clinicians will be able to explore the database to identify patient backgrounds, behavior, genetics, treatment and response, and translate these findings into better therapies, ultimately improving outcomes for our patients.

In a collaborative effort to advance the field of precision medicine, UW Medicine, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Seattle Children’s leveraged their mutual strengths in bioinformation and data science to build the Brotman Baty Institute. The BBI’s focus is to provide investigators with access to the tools they need to study large genomic data sets with the goal of discovering novel therapies and elevating patient care.

What is personalized medicine?

Thumbprint graphic representing personalized medicine

Personalized medicine uses a patient’s individual genetic and genomic information to design treatments that are targeted and effective. A person’s genetic variation may predispose an individual to cancer by encoding specific mutations in their DNA. Importantly, specific mutations also signal which tumors are likely to respond to certain therapies. 

This knowledge can lead to individualized precision oncology treatments designed to maximize the likelihood of success by avoiding therapies that won’t work on specific cancer types. By merging a patient’s clinical data with the patient’s genetic and genomic molecular data, the goal of precision oncology is to design targeted therapies that more accurately and precisely treat a patient’s unique cancer profile. 

How does it work?

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that records our genetic code and contains all of the instructions to build our bodies. An organism’s complete set of DNA is called a genome and is built of linear sequences of four DNA nucleotides, or bases. We call specific series of bases genes, which may code for features such as hair color, or whether you will be right or left handed.

If any of these bases gets out of order on the DNA strand, this is a mutation. Most mutations are harmless, but some inherited variants can put people at higher risk for developing cancer. Further, some mutations are particularly susceptible to certain drugs, leading to targeted therapy.

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